The Missing Hours | Emma Kavanagh | 2016 | Century/Arrow | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book
One minute Selena Cole is pushing her youngest daughter on the swings and the next Selena is gone, leaving her eldest, Heather, a seven year old, to protect and comfort her little sister as best she can before a neighbour discovers them. Nobody can explain Selena’s disappearance. All are adamant that she would never have willingly abandoned her children. She must have been taken. After all, it can hardly be a coincidence that Selena is a psychologist specialising in the growing business of kidnap and ransom (K&R).
DC Leah McKay is assigned Selena’s case. A mother of twins herself, she feels so keenly for Selena’s daughters. As Leah gets to know Selena’s friends, family and neighbours, a picture builds, not only of the vanished woman but of the K&R business that she used to run with her beloved husband until he was blown up by a terrorist in Brazil such a short time ago. The business is now run by Selena’s sister-in-law Orla and her husband. Just a cursory look at the cases that Selena was involved in shows that she could have any number of enemies after revenge. And then suddenly Selena turns up, her memories gone.
Meanwhile, Leah’s brother Finn is a newly promoted DS and when the murdered body of a well known and popular solicitor is found he’s not too sure that he’s ready for such a high profile first case. Just as well then that Leah is able to lend him a hand, particularly when links are made between the murder and Leah’s missing person case which is now, in the eyes of their superiors, not a case at all.
The Missing Hours is Emma Kavanagh’s third novel and it demonstrates yet again why Emma has become one of my very favourite writers of crime fiction. For me, she is right up there with Sarah Hilary, James Oswald, Stuart MacBride and Sharon Bolton. Emma’s books go straight to the top of the teetering book mountain. Rather unusually, Emma’s books don’t form a series, each is different though all are linked with their criminal (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) and psychological insight, fantastic stories and characters the reader gets behind. The Missing Hours is no different.
As the truth behind Selena’s disappearance slowly emerges, we are given the story through several distinct voices, particularly those of Leah and Finn. But throughout we are also given report notes from some of the many cases that Selena’s K&R company dealt with. This builds up a riveting backstory of global crime, ransom and desperation. The tension of the negotiations, the careless violence and the sheer bravery and nerve of the negotiators is made plain and intensifies the drama of the cases that Leah and Finn must unravel.
The Missing Hours is both complex and entirely satisfying. The reader is kept on high alert as clues and red herrings dance before us, all set against the background of huge suffering and anxiety. The solicitor’s murder leaves behind a vacuum of grief and Leah and Finn must use all their understanding and intuition to work through this. I really enjoyed the sibling detectives. This added an unusual dynamic to the investigation. I was fascinated by the K&R world portrayed here in such detail. Each is a powerful human story. Emma Kavanagh is a wonderful, original writer and The Missing Hours is a fine achievement. There is nothing about this book I didn’t love. I can’t say more than that – except more, please!